The Most Popular Candy from Every Decade

Discover the most popular candy from 1941 to 2003! These sweets sure do bring back memories.

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Old Candy Store Colorful Candies In Jars 1174876747
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Ever wonder what the most popular candy was the year you were born? Celebrate your next birthday with one of these timeless treats.

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candy, m&ms
Shutterstock/Amawasri Pakdara

Most Popular Candy of 1941: M&Ms

These little chocolate jewels were invented to send as rations to soldiers in World War II. Their hard shell meant the chocolate wouldn’t melt in the heat, and their bright colors lifted morale. In 1948, they were repackaged in brown bags to sell to the public. Today, the packaging has evolved even more. Find even more ways to love M&Ms by whipping up a batch of M&M cookies.

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Shutterstock/Sheila Fitzgerald

Most Popular Candy of 1945: DOTS Gumdrops

Since their invention, DOTS has offered the same flavors every year with cherry, strawberry, lemon, lime and orange. And they haven’t waned in popularity! Four billion DOTS are produced each year. Craving something sweet? Get our best candy bar copycat recipes.

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bubble gum,candy
Shutterstock/Keith Homan

Most Popular Candy of 1947: Bazooka Bubble Gum

Marketed in a post-World War II America, Bazooka gum was originally sold in single pieces for a penny each. In 1953, Topps would introduce the iconic comic strips associated with Bazooka Bubble Gum, with 75 different comics to collect. Looking for the comic strips today? Prepare for a kick in the childhood—the company did away with the comics in 2012 in an attempt to modernize the brand.

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Shutterstock/Keith Homan

Most Popular Candy of 1948: Almond Joy

Sister candy bar to Mounds, Almond Joy features milk chocolate rather than Mounds’ dark chocolate coating. While diehard fans swear by the classic, there have been several iterations of the candy, including Piña Colada, White Chocolate Key Lime and Milk Chocolate Passion Fruit Almond.

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Most Popular Candy of 1949: Junior Mints

Deliciously sweet and refreshingly minty, Junior Mints was named after a collection of stories by Sally Benson called “Junior Miss,” which eventually became a Broadway play. In 2009, all of our wildest dreams came true when Junior Mints Deluxe rolled out, a larger dark chocolate version.

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hot tamales, candy

Most Popular Candy of 1950: Hot Tamales

Some like it hot! Sweet and spicy Hot Tamales continue to be the top-selling cinnamon candy in the United States to this day. Find ways to bake with cinnamon.

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Most Popular Candy of 1952: PEZ

PEZ was invented in Austria and introduced to the United States in 1952. While the founding company thinks of itself at its core as candy-based, there’s no doubt that people have always gone a little bonkers over the dispensers. Over the years, 1,500 different types of dispensers have been created.

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Most Popular Candy of 1953: Candy Cigarettes

Marketed during the height of smoking in the United States, these candies were wrapped and packaged to look just like cigarettes—some packaging even contained a little bit of sugar in the wrapper, so that you could blow and produce “smoke.” Candy cigarettes were eventually banned in 15 countries, although only North Dakota in the U.S. temporarily banned the candy from 1953-1967.

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Most Popular Candy of 1954: Atomic Fireballs

Looking for a candy with a dark origin? Atomic Fireballs were released during the peak of the Cold War, when students underwent bomb drills in school.

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Shutterstock/Keith Homan

Most Popular Candy of 1955: Good & Plenty

While Good & Plenty is thought to be the oldest brand of candy in the United States, starting in 1893, it surged in popularity in the 1950s due to a marketing campaign featuring the cartoon “Choo-Choo-Charlie.”

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Shutterstock/Keith Homan

Most Popular Candy of 1957: Charleston Chew

Invented in 1925, Charleston Chew was indeed named after the popular dance The Charleston. Despite its dance ties, the candy didn’t reach peak popularity until the founding company was purchased by Nathan Sloane, doubling in sales. The candy has expanded beyond chocolate to also offer strawberry and vanilla, although for one shining moment it could also be found in banana.

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Via Merchant

Most Popular Candy of 1958: Candy Necklace

While maybe not the best investment for heirloom jewelry, candy necklaces were immediately a hit when they came onto the scene in 1958. But wait, there’s more! Try on these other cute foodie jewelry ideas.

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Shutterstock/Keith Homan

Most Popular Candy of 1960: Pixy Stix

When candy producers found out that kids were eating a popular drink mix called Fruzola Jr. straight out of the packet as a sugary powder, they tweaked the recipe and created Lik-M-Aid, which would eventually be rebranded as Pixy Stix and packaged in those iconic paper straws.

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lemon head,candy

Most Popular Candy of 1961: Lemonheads

No joke—the inventor of Lemonheads came up with the idea for the candy after witnessing the oblong shape of his grandson’s head shortly after birth. Maybe not exactly what you want to be known for, but it is a delicious candy.

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sweet tarts, candy

Most Popular Candy of 1962: SweetTarts

Believe it or not, SweetTarts are actually just a condensed version of Pixy Sticks. When parents began to bemoan the mess that Pixy Sticks created, the company compacted the recipe into round, flat tablets.

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Most Popular Candy of 1965: Astro Pop

At the height of the Space Race came the Astro Pop. Modeled after a three-stage rocket, this candy was created by rocket scientists who quit their jobs and hand-built the equipment to make the candy.

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Most Popular Candy of 1967: Starburst

Starburst didn’t always have its catchy name—the candy was originally called Opal Fruits in Britain before it was brought to the U.S. It was marketed as a healthy candy because of its fruit flavors, and at one point was even fortified with Vitamin C. Starburst isn’t the only amazing candy to come out of Britain. This British candy might make you move across the pond.

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Most Popular Candy of 1969: Fruit Stripe Gum

This gum’s flavor may have only lasted one-and-a-half chews, but that didn’t stop everyone from chomping up pack after pack. While not the original intended mascot, a zebra named Yipes eventually became the face of Fruit Stripe Gum, with temporary tattoos of the zebra included inside the packs.

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Most Popular Candy of 1970: Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups

Reese’s has been around since the 1920s, born in the basement of H. B. Reese’s house, but the cups reached peak popularity after Hershey Chocolate and H. B. Reese merged in 1963. The candy would become Hershey’s top-seller in 1969. If you’re ready to start your own confectionary, give these homemade peanut butter cups (or any of these other homemade candy recipes) a try.

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Most Popular Candy of 1971: Laffy Taffy

In 1971, “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” starring Gene Wilder hit the theaters, and Beaker Confections released a whole line of brightly colored candies under the name of Willy Wonka, including Laffy Taffy. However, Laffy Taffy was the only candy to have jokes printed on the packaging. Get it? Laffy?

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Shutterstock/Keith Homan

Most Popular Candy of 1973: Fun Dip

Fun Dip—because the only way to make eating pure sugar better is to have dipping sticks that are also completely sugar! Though, for what it’s worth, Fun Dip does take much longer to consume, prolonging the sugar bliss and possibly lowering the amount of candy consumed.

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pop rocks,candy
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Most Popular Candy of 1975: Pop Rocks

Sometimes danger is part of the fun! Despite a large marketing campaign and even a special hotline set up by the FDA for frantic parents, rumors persisted for years that Pop Rocks would make your stomach boil and explode if consumed with soda. This snack will make you feel like a kid again.

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Shutterstock/Keith Homan

Most Popular Candy of 1976: Jelly Belly Jelly Beans

If you visit Jelly Belly in Fairfield, California, you’ll be watched over during the tour by multiple pictures of Ronald Reagan, including an enormous portrait made entirely of jelly beans. The reason? Ronald Reagan was a huge Jelly Belly fan, eating them as a way to quit smoking cigarettes in the 1960s and keeping the White House well stocked during his presidency. (Discover the best-selling Jelly Bean flavor in your state!)

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ring pop,candy
Shutterstock/Keith Homan

Most Popular Candy of 1979: Ring Pop

When Frank Richards invented the Ring Pop, he was just trying to get his daughter to stop sucking her thumb. Little did he know how popular this candy would be, and that his creation would even make an appearance at numerous weddings. For the record, we don’t advise trying to propose to your significant other with a Ring Pop unless you’re really sure they’ll think it’s cute.

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Shutterstock/Keith Homan

Most Popular Candy of 1982: Reese’s Pieces

Reese’s Pieces exploded into popularity in 1982 because of a little alien just trying to call home. The film “E.T.” featured the candy, a promotional spot turned down by M&Ms. Check out these other recipes inspired by iconic movies for your next movie night.

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Most Popular Candy of 1983: Nerds

Often thought to be named after a Dr. Seuss character, Nerds are similar to rock candy with their irregular, unusual shapes. The candy would be one of the biggest in the 1980s and was named Candy of the Year by the National Candy Wholesalers Association in 1985. (If you haven’t tried it already, you need to try vanilla ice cream with nerds on top!)

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Most Popular Candy of 1985: Sour Patch Kids

Sour Patch Kids, also known as “The Very Bad Kids” in France, were originally released as “Mars Men,” but they got a new name and image to coincide with the popularity of The Cabbage Patch Kids in 1985. This branding helped catapult them into popularity.

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Shutterstock/Keith Homan

Most Popular Candy of 1986: Airheads

“What would you call your friend who did something silly?” is the question inventor Steve Bruner asked his sons that generated the name for the sweet taffy candy. Today, the factory runs in Erlngar, Kentucky and fills the town with the smell of whatever flavor of Airhead is being cooked up that day.

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Shutterstock/Keith Homan

Most Popular Candy of 1990: Big League Chew

While Big League Chew had been around since 1980, it exploded in popularity after its packaging began to include caricatures of baseball players. Have you seen these other crazy ballpark foods?

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Most Popular Candy of 1993: Warheads

Some people like chocolate, some people like candy that makes them feel like an actual warhead is going off in their mouth. That was the idea behind the name for Warheads, which led to many after-school sessions with kids squaring off over who could eat the most Warheads at once—it definitely didn’t hurt sales.

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Shutterstock/dean bertoncelj

Most Popular Candy of 1995: Hershey’s Cookies ‘N’ Creme Bar

No need for milk with your cookies when you can have the whole shebang in a single Hershey’s candy bar. If you didn’t know, this wildly popular candy did inspire a cereal spinoff—and since breakfast is very important, you should probably buy some immediately. If you’re a big fan of this flavor combo, you won’t be able to resist these tasty cookies and cream desserts.

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Most Popular Candy of 1996: Mini M&Ms

Mini M&Ms were sold in little plastic tubes rather than bags, which just made it easier to pour all of them into your mouth at once. Thank goodness for technology.

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Most Popular Candy of 1998: Baby Bottle Pop

Possibly one of the strangest marketing strategies for a candy arrived with Baby Bottle Pop, which encouraged kids to regress back to their infant days. The “tip” of the bottle was the lollipop, which you then dipped into the sugar inside the bottle.

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Most Popular Candy of 2001: Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans

With Harry Potter craze sweeping the world, Jelly Belly created a Muggle version of the book’s fictional line of jelly beans, with wild and unsettling flavors like earwax, vomit, skunk and dirt. Can’t get enough of the boy wizard? Make your kitchen practically magical with these Harry Potter-inspired gadgets.

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Most Popular Candy of 2002:  Dulce de Leche Caramel M&M’s

We’re bummed we missed out on this M&M’s flavor! While you can’t find these guys on shelves now, we hope they will eventually come back. Make your own dulce de leche at home to hold yourself over.

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Hersheys Kisses Special Dark

Most Popular Candy of 2003: Hershey’s Kisses Special Dark

Hershey’s are always a crowd favorite, and when a new flavor comes out, we can’t help but rave over it. This dark chocolate dessert was supposedly a limited-edition flavor, but we loved it so much that you can still buy these little morsels today.

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Maggie Ward
Maggie’s background in the arts gave her a penchant for collaborative communication and the pursuit of conveying ideas in a clear, striking way. Outside of writing for Taste of Home, Maggie loves playing the piano and writing music, as well as performing with various bands and theatre productions around the city of Chicago.
Christina Herbst
Christina is a Social Media Editor for Taste of Home. She enjoys trying out local restaurants and coffeehouses and adding copious amounts of garlic and cheese to any recipe she can get her hands on. In her free time, you can find her hunting down one-of-a-kind furniture pieces at thrift and vintage stores and DIYing trendy home decor crafts.